To effectively navigate the world around us, our brain has developed shortcuts to preselect the most relevant visual information at first glance. In the age of fast web browsing and content mining, however, the goals have changed. Visual and auditory stimuli are constantly streaming onto screens from all corners of the internet, making audience engagement on a single webpage a potentially difficult task.
Enter 3M’s Visual Attention Software (VAS), a web-based tool that analyzes digital designs and photos, and predicts what is likely to grab consumers’ attention within the first three to five seconds of viewing. Users simply upload any image they wish to analyze – a company logo, a webpage graphic with vital brand information, etc. The software then analyzes the effectiveness of each image and generates results identifying the five visual elements that grab human attention: outlines, intensity, faces, and strong differences in red/green contrast and blue/yellow contrast, according to 3M .
In doing so, VAS helps users iterate through the initial web design stages to ensure that viewers interact with the intended areas of a given web page.
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The VAS software simulates an early phase of human vision called pre-attentive processing – a phenomenon that occurs when we first glance at something, but before we are aware of what we are looking at. This “first look” is key to capturing audience interest and creating impactful designs. If viewers see your content at first glance, they’re more likely to consciously engage with it later, according to 3M.
Using the program, users can mark these priority areas in a design and receive targeted reports and feedback on selected sections, including:
Hobbies – VAS provides probability scores on the likelihood of specified areas of interest being seen with the design.
Visual elements – Note elements to determine attention – contours, color contrasts, intensity and faces. Data can guide improvements that can enhance viewer attraction.
(How can designers and retailers use this technology to gauge customer preferences? See the story on page 28).
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After analysis, users are able to see what their audience sees on a given image or logo. If a visual element needs reworking, they can make adjustments and upload them to VAS for further analysis until they have achieved their visual hierarchy goals.
VAS also provides a
global analysis of a user’s visual content through:
heat map – Provides a visual overview of salient areas of the design.
hot spots – Rates the probability of attracting the viewer’s attention in hot regions of the heat map.
gaze sequence – Presents the order in which a person will see the top four areas most likely to be noticed.
VAS costs $49 per month per user, or $588 per year per user, for unlimited user access.